A Technician’s Experience in a Room Full of Frog Scientists

Each year a group of amphibian experts meets to discuss status, research updates and action items for the recovery of the state endangered and federally threatened Oregon spotted frog (OSF).  This year, the two OSF technicians, who cared for and released 167 frogs in 2015, were able to attend this important meeting and share the critical role they have played in the OSF recovery effort.  The following blog is inmate science technician Mr. Boysen’s reaction to the meeting.  Thank you Mr. Boysen, for sharing your experience and for everything you have contributed to the program.-Sadie Gilliom-Sustainability in Prisons Project OSF and Western Pond Turtle Coordinator

Today my co-worker and I went to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.  We left Cedar Creek Corrections Center earlier than I expected and made it to the Refuge a little late.  We were greeted by our boss, Mrs. Gilliom and directed to our seats.  It was a pretty intimidating place at first glance.  There were lots of badges and logos on shirts and hats. I recognized most of them.  There was Northwest Trek, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo and other people I have seen and given tours of the turtle program to at Cedar Creek.  Seeing familiar faces made it less intimidating.  Right out of the gate, Kelli Bush, the manager at the Sustainability in Prisons Project came up and thanked us for coming and I saw more and more people I’d seen before.

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

The presentations started and I was amazed at the large size of this group of really smart people- these people spend so much of their time and career on these frogs.  There are so many aspects of this project I didn’t really understand were going on behind the scenes.  It was interesting to hear from JBLM about how they haven’t found any egg masses or frogs at the release site.  It was nice to hear that they are finding Oregon spotted frogs in locations around the Black River area that are thriving.  I didn’t recognize how much work was done just to survey the swamps, marshes, and ditches where frogs might be hiding.  Getting to see the maps with the GPS lines that showed where people had actually slogged their way through mud and muck was pretty cool.

Another part of the presentation that I found to be really cool was the different types of work that is being done to restore habitat for the frogs.  The different ways that the reed canary grass is being removed/eradicated was very interesting.  The mats of native plants that were going into production at another prison sound like a good idea.  It was fascinating to see how much work was involved with the restoration of native plants.  They burn, move, weed wack, hand cut and till the soil to allow a more inhabitable place for the frogs to live.

You would never really think all of this was going on to save a frog from extinction. It kind of gives you hope when you really think about it.  If this many people can spend this much time and brainpower on one little frog and one state’s government can spend this much money to stop one species of frog from disappearing then maybe we haven’t become blind to what we have done to the world we live in.  Maybe we can fix the things we have messed up and the damage we have done to our world.

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

The most intimidating part of the trip was the presentation we gave.  Now, I’m not a shy person or timid in any way, but when I walked to the front of that room with Mrs. Gilliom and Bill, I was a little surprised with how big the room got.  Having that many intelligent people staring at you is intimidating.  It was trial by fire for Bill and me.  We told the group of leading experts in their field what we were getting from the program and why we wanted to be a part of it.  Neither of us babbled or passed out, so that was cool.  Then after we finished we actually got an applause.  We were there for hours and saw 10 people go up and talk to the group.  We were the only ones that got applause!

Then it was time for us to go, so we hopped into the transport van to go back to prison.  It was an eye opening experience for the both of us.

I’ve been in prison for over half a decade and for that four hours we were there, we were not inside a prison compound and were not surrounded by prisoners and razor wire.  I almost felt like I was a different version of myself, that I had not made the mistakes I made when I was young. It was nice to see that the work we do at Cedar Creek plays a pretty big role in trying to fix a problem we, as our own species, have caused in our environment and planet.

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *